BUILD:India and NGO Payir partnered to organize health evenings for the rural Thottiyapatti community

by tuftsigl
Jun 13

The second week of our trip to Payir consisted of us putting on two health evenings for the Thottiyapatti community, creating a promotional video for Payir, writing official reports on Payir’s solar panel project and annual report, distributing all supplies bought and establishing a phase-out plan for our club, which we would later discus with the founders Preethi and Senthil.

This past week we had the honor to work with Payir to put on two health evenings. It was interesting to work with members of the Payir community to come up with creative ways to introduce the ideas of mental health, sanitation, and nutrition to the Thottiyapatti community. We decided that we would make stress balls from balloons and rice for the mental health station.

Throughout the day we sat and poured rice into balloons, noticing how such a simple idea could have greater implications for the community and bring smiles to the children’s faces. For the nutrition stand, we designed a food pyramid with foods common to the local cuisine that people within the community eat often. On the evening of the event, we went house to house, spreading the word about the event.

During the first night of the Health Evening, we had three stations: at the mental health station we explained how to best handle stress and anger, and as a coping mechanism we suggested our homemade stress balls. At the sanitation station, we had a hand washing and nail cleaning demonstration, an explanation of the importance of adequate footwear, and distribution of nail clippers, soap and sandals.

At the nutrition station, we explained the importance of a balanced diet using our food pyramid and common vegetables as visuals. The following day, it was exciting to learn that certain people did follow our recommendations as one girl who attended the previous Health Evening mentioned that she cut her nails. It was also exciting to see a number of people who joined us on the next day to discuss mental health issues in the village. From Preethi, we learned that the Health Evenings had an impact on the community because it exposed people to new ideas and us coming in as foreigners give them a new perspective.

This past weekend we were able to continue exploring the Indian culture through a second visit to Trichy. We woke up very early to catch the bus. The cultural immersion started with the incredibly packed local bus that played loud thudding Tamil music. In Trichy, we ate great Indian food and visited a famous temple. Before leaving we bought sweets as a parting gift for the children and members of Payir, whom we had gotten to know so closely.

Upon our return we finalized the annual report, adding in the last sets of data. We met with Preethi and Senthil to gather all necessary information to write a report on the recently installed solar panels. This ended up being a very concise, two-page report that can be used for all marketing purposes.

Preethi and Senthil had also asked us to film an 8-10min promotional video featuring all of Payir’s projects and their mission. We took it upon ourselves to create the entire storyboard, voice-over script, filming and editing. A great success was showing the final cut to the founders and receiving their approval.

The major goal, which we outlined early on as a trip team, and with the approval of the entire BUILD club, was to start a phase-out plan with Preethi and Senthil. This past year our club has extensively discussed the sustainability of our projects here, leading to the club consensus that our presence should gradually decrease over time. The plan we agreed on with Payir is:

  • 3 more trip teams will visit Payir for a maximum of four days per trip (last trip team to Payir will be winter 2018)
  • Funding to Payir will decrease with each trip (ending with the winter 2018 trip)
  • Our projects for these three trips will focus on the following issues: alcoholism in rural India, educational field trips for both Payir and Learning Center students, and expository street plays aiming to bring upon behavioral changes with respect to sanitation and nutrition in Thottiyapatti
  • As we begin phasing out of Payir we plan to have more time and funding available to focus on a new NGO. This will allow future trips to visit the new NGO and BUILD India to take on said NGO’s projects

The entire trip has been an extremely valuable learning experience for us all. We have gained wonderful experiences in terms of cultural immersion, lasting social bonds, and have completed all trip goals set prior to departure.